Tiny drone swarms dubbed “Marsbees” could be at the forefront of Mars exploration following an award from NASA. The concept was one of twenty five ideas to win a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts award which will deliver funding for the development of the idea.
Each Marsbee is a bee-sized drone with large wings, a similar size to those of the humble cicada, that will allow them to hover in the Martian atmosphere. Organised in swarms, the drone will use advanced sensors to record data such as terrain mapping and report to a central communications hub which will double as a recharge station.
The award will be used to develop a design that will perform well in Mars’ atmosphere, with the wing design, bee motion and weight the top priorities.
The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) will develop the concept in partnership with Tokyo University of Science and George Washington University.
Dr Chang-Kwon Kang, the author of the proposal, said “One of our main goals for the first phase is to experimentally demonstrate that these Marsbees can lift off their own weight in Martian density conditions in the vacuum chamber of UAH’s Propulsion Research Center. Our long-term overarching goal is to develop swarms of Marsbees that can help with the human exploration on Mars.